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Caravaggio - The Deposition - Caravaggesque Movement


Michelangelo Merisi - Caravaggio as he is called after the town in which he spent his childhood - was born in Milan in 1571 and died 39 years later at Port'Ercole, a small town in the Spanish enclave on the Tuscan coast which was within the boundaries of the papal state.

His life like his art - full of artistic pathos and human drama - is one of the myths of European art. In his work, Caravaggio introduced a form of expression which many artists of the next generation continued and developed. This comprised a concentrated beam of light illuminating the important forms while the remaining ones are left submerged in shadow, the capturing of an event as if in a time frame, the palpable physicality of the common people introduced into religious painting, a vivid naturalism, indeed, illusionism of details, contrasted in other pictures with heavily impasted paint.

The Caravaggesque movement was not limited to Rome, Naples and Sicily, but spread to include French, Flemish, Dutch, German and Spanish artists for whom tenebrism - a low-keyed manner opposed to intense color or light spots - became an attribute of style.

The exhibition at the National Museum in Warsaw is a unique presentation of Caravaggio's Deposition (1602-1604), painted for the church of Santa Maria in Valicella in Rome. This masterpiece from the Vatican Collections is shown with 35 other paintings by Caravaggio's followers, borrowed from Polish museums and private collections.

It took a favorable combination of a number of important events for this legendary picture to be shown in for the first time in Poland. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the capital status of Warsaw, the municipal authorities made Pope John Paul II a Honorary Citizen. The Warsaw National Museum's proposal to open an exhibition of art from the Vatican collections found favor with both the Primate of Poland Cardinal Jozef Glemp and the Papal Nuncio in Poland Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk. The Vatican Collections kindly agreed to cooperate. Thus was born an idea which permitted specialists from the National Museum, exhibition curators Joanna Kilian and Antoni Ziemba, to prepare this particular display. The exhibition design, which carries extra meaning in this case, has been eveloped by Adam Kilian. The exhibition catalogue has been conceived as a popular presentation of the subject aimed at the Polish public for which the Warsaw show is the first opportunity to study the work of an artist who is considered the greatest painter of the Italian Baroque.

The exhibition has been made possible by support from sponsors, especially FIAT Auto Poland, Powszechny Zaklad Ubezpieczen PZU, Powszechny Bank Kredytowy PBK, Casinos Poland, Central Europe Business Forum and many others. We are extremely grateful to all of them for their contributions, big and small, which have helped to produce the exhibition and its catalogue.

Dorota Folga-Januszewska


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